This report by Vick Myers Has appeared on Lorraine’s blog
‘Cool man!’ and an approving look comes from three teenage boys hanging out on the beach with their surf boards. I wonder what it it that illicits such a response. Maybe its the blond baby boy sitting next to his teddy bear in front of me, or maybe I have finally achieved yummy mummy appeal, but in reality it is the shiny red Christiania cargo bike that caught their eye. This bike always draws a reaction from people. Children seem particularly impressed, enthusiastically drawing their parents attention as we cycle past. Adults generally give us a big smile, sometimes we get a confused stares, or they call out a requesting a lift or to buy an ice-cream.
More recently I have become oblivious to most reactions, looking forward, smile on my face, chatting to my little boy as he sits up in front of me looking like a miniature form of royalty.
Life changed a year ago when I became a mum. Despite being a confident world traveller and never worrying about entering a new situation, suddenly getting out of the house became difficult and achieving the smallest of every day tasks a real mission. I was struggling with the same insecurities that confront many new mums. Every day I learnt, adapted and became more confident, but I missed many aspects of my old life.
We have had the bike for four months now and being able to bicycle with my son has helped me regain my confidence. We tried out several types of cargo bike with Kids and Family Cycles, a local company who have a comprehensive collection of every type of child carrying device you could think of. The traditional Christiania cargo bike was visually appealing, well made and the addition of the electric option gave us the power to go further – faster! Finally, after two test rides and lots of encouragement from my dad, the decision was made and the bike ordered.
The anticipation grew during the weeks it took for it to be delivered from Denmark. I couldn’t wait to dump the buggy and car and go cycling – just like the good old days. Having been on a cycle touring holiday down France with my friend Lorraine when I was four months pregnant, I was itching to go touring once again. My dreams grew as the weeks passed and I imagined I could once again go cycle around the Purbecks, the New Forest and even taking the bike on the ferry to France.
Once the bike arrived, it was in use almost every day. I found it comfortable and easy to ride, the power pack was great, and anything was possible, but I worried about the fragility of my nine month old cargo. Being the only person around with such a device, so there was none to ask for advice so we took things slowly. The baby seat was great, but he didn’t look comfortable when he went to sleep so I put his old car seat, which holds him in a reclined position in the footwell of the bike, so whenever he slept, he as able to lie down. My confidence slowly built following this adaption and we started to journey further afield. We visited the park, Sainsbury’s, dropped in at the toy shop and the library in Christchurch, cycled into Boscombe, then on to Bournemouth (Dorset). The box seemed huge and could carry the kitchen sink – or, more helpfully, the buggy.
Friends with children tried it, it was easy to carry three children and everyone unanimously loved it. Any adults game for a laugh take a seat in the box (the weight limit is 100kg) and they seem to love it as much as children.
It was worth investing in electric assist although the bike was easy to ride and pretty quick in its own right. Turning the throttle meant it was feasible to climb up relatively steep hills and it was possible to pulling out of junctions quickly. As an optional extra, it also meant as my fitness returned, I was able to turn off the electric and get a good workout on everyday trips.
The most important thing is that it makes my little boy happy. The secondary benefit is that it makes him sleep. I enjoy riding the bike so much, I even take it out in the rain, which I would never have considered doing on an ordinary bike.
In my travels I have seen one other cargo bike carrying kids, and only met a couple of other people who own a cargo bike. It’s such a shame using cargo bikes to transport children is not mainstream in this country. To remind me of my sanity, I still occasionally look at this You-tube video of cargo bikes in Copenhagen – and follow the Kickstarter revolution started by an American mum of twins. Owning a cargo bike would never have happened without my Dad’s encouragement and support. Also Lorraine, who is enthusiastic about all things bicycle related, helped build my confidence. I introduced Lorraine to cycle touring last April, and she got the bug badly, she went on to cycle across Canada and down America. Earlier this month, we relived our cycling adventures taking the cargo bike on a day trip around the New Forest. I’m hoping this was just the beginning of new adventures.